Friday, March 16, 2018

Stephen Shore in Chelsea

What these nine large prints by Stephen Shore have in common is the uniform size of 64”x 48” as well as his trademark banal subject matter translated into sharp detail shots ranging from sidewalk debris to peaceful river water. If you are making photographs nowadays, when everyone is at license to take a picture of street trash and post it on Instagram in the name of some vague poetic impulse, then your work is challenged to do something more than just add to the existing noise.

As a body of work, I don’t believe the Stephen Shore exhibition at 303 Gallery accomplishes this; several of the photographs deviate in both composition and subject matter, sacrificing a sense of cohesiveness between the imagery. Where a majority of these photos include some manmade element like paper bags or cigarette butts, several pieces convey purely natural elements. Additionally, while most of the photos are a high resolution image at a downward angle, a particular image of tree branches seems to follow some other logic and is shot at a traditional standing angle. The thrill of this new work, however, is found in singular pieces where the closeup of the image defamiliarizes into texture and color and then reveals itself as receding yellow traffic paint and dirt on asphalt. Shore, through several individual photographs rather than the entire body of work, proves photography’s enduring power as a tool to help us contemporary viewers forget what we are looking at so that it becomes visible to us again.

Stephen Shore at MoMA

Stephen Shore at MoMA is the artist’s first survey exhibition in New York and covers the his career of more than five decades. His prolificacy is made clear by the density with which his photographs are packed into the galleries. Despite the exhaustive curation, Shore’s aesthetic is clear and consistent. Modest homes, street corners of sleepy towns on overcast days, unglamorous food and friends and strangers caught off guard, captured unapologetically. Shore’s photographs feel urgent, as if he paused for just a moment by accident, that their objective might simply be that moment remarkable of stillness. 

His landscapes from 1979-1993 struck me most of all. They are pastoral and romantic. In relation to the selections of urbanity, the landscapes seem more careful. There’s an ease and a suddenness with which Shore decides to capture a figure or a building, such as a 1974 photo of Robert and Lucille Wehrly - his sensibility can more easily and rapidly determine what and how the photo is. In his 1979 photo of Merced River at Yosemite there is the sense that Shore had to wait for this image to come together before he could take the photo. The figures had to align, the ripples in the water had to be just so. There is something illuminating in maybe having to wait till the last possible second, right before all the details fall apart and the image is lost.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tania Bruguera at MoMA Untitled –Havana, 2000

Tania Bruguera at MoMA
Untitled –Havana, 2000

This piece is steeped Inside the cultural history of Cuba under the rule of Fidel Castro. Tania Bruguera addresses a time ripe with atrocities and political unrest. For me this piece had a very powerful impact due to the way the experience completely enveloped all of your senses. From what I can tell the space constructed inside the MoMA building is almost identical to the space where it was first shown. After waiting In a line for three hours I was finally permitted to enter the exhibition. From the bleach white light of the exterior space, you enter a concrete slab doorway almost three feet deep on all sides. You are unable to see where your going as your eyes adjust. The dry sugarcane at your feet is soft, and makes your throat scratch. A projection of Castro plays in a screen overhead in the center of the space. The only light other then the doorway. Upon walking back, with the light of the door as an exit beacon, the nude figures are exposed in clear sight. Each moves in a restricted manor, each look very uncomfortable. Upon exiting I had to take a moment to decompress and walked around looking at other works, though this piece I couldn’t get out of my mind.  

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Geometry of Colour at Lehmann Maupin Gallery

The Geometry of Colour is a body of works created by artist Robin Rhode. These works are cooperative visual and performance art, documented through c-print photographs, taken at a wall in Johannesburg.

In one work, Under the Sun, Rhode produced images of the pixelated sun’s rays for both the political and atmospheric climates that the regions share across 36 photographs. His sun rays join the long representational history of the sun, both as a benevolent father figure and as a symbol of victory and might, throughout monotheistic religions. The rays also revisit the theme of light as a sociopolitical issue—the expansion of the electrical grid to serve black townships was an early achievement of the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela.

I appreciate the form of Under the Sun and Rhode’s ideas on the metaphor of the sun rays. However, many of his thoughts come to me from the statement, not the work itself. In the exhibition, some of his works show the beauty of geometries and documents of his excellent performance. However, it is hard for audiences to associate geometries with sociopolitical issues. Because geometries in artworks are more like unemotional expressions, it is too abstract to related spectrum to the metaphor of sun rays in history. To think personally, the document of his performance is a second pass which will lose a strong and dynamic expression. The original work should be more impactful on the concept.

David Hockney at The Met

I can feel a clear and strong direction in David Hockney’s retrospective at The Met. In his early works, he focused more on abstraction but his later works are more representational, he has a strong interest in how to use color, form and figuration to express everyday experience. Even though some of his paintings do not include human figures, such as his still lives, paintings of buildings and swimming pools, all of these reflect aspects of contemporary life.

One of the many reasons that his work is successful is its connection between his painting and modern design — the paintings’ vibrant, pure color and graphic shapes, the contrast between textures. All these elements are carefully composed and manipulated by Hockney. Because his work resonates in the context of consumer society, even a person who does not know much about art could likely be attracted to it. 

As a photographer, I appreciate the way his work explored perspective. His photo works provide multiple ways to view the world simultaneously. The juxtaposition of many photos amplifies the differences between the camera and the human's eye, thus showing that technology cannot fully represent space.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Review: Brian Alfred " Future Shock" at Miles McEnery Gallery

The first piece of the exhibition is called “Enclaves of the Future.” I feel a lot uninteresting at my first impression of this work alone, but it does make sense if we associate this one with the exhibition title and rest of the works. This painting as the opening, it aggressively put the viewers in the dark side. In this way, when we stand in front of it, the layered weird neon colors in the background give the viewer a lot of pressure and fear, because you do not know what is coming towards you.
Among Brian's works, he mostly uses architectural, mechanical, interior and urban landscapes, and what is important is that many of it depict "no man's land." There is no living existence, only from his sufficient positioning the sense of light, showing that the traces of life. For instance, the "Personal Stability Zones" and the "Time Horizons," those two paintings depict no man but implicate one concern of Brian is the extreme population density in the future.  
In his works, Blair emphasizes the composition of horizontal and vertical lines. In his painting "Sunlight and personality" and The "Time and Change," he uses straight lines and cold color tone to represent the radical attitude as well as the sense of powerlessness. 

Nature Confined at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

Carla Klein explores greenhouse interiors across Europe through sweeping, panoramic compositions in her seventh solo show at Tanya Bonakdar gallery. Klein’s work is a mediation on opposites: nature and artifice, objectivity and subjectivity. Her subject matter is nature dominating a space where it’s meant to be confined. Low vantage points combined with life-sized botany give each painting a sense of power. Klein’s deliberate exclusion of humans contribute to her work feeling both old and new at the same time; her cool-toned landscapes surrounded by glass feel utopian and futuristic, while her warm, sepia depictions of banana trees are reminiscent of a prehistoric past.
The collision of nature and artifice is epitomized in one painting split horizontally- the top half is rendered naturalistically but the bottom is a vibrant red, resembling a print being looked at under the harsh red light of a darkroom. Klein’s jarring use of red draws attention to the synthetic process of photography, perhaps serving as a reminder that her paintings are created from the use of photographs, not just memory.

Klein’s technique isn’t particularly groundbreaking, yet the architectural elements of her converging lines and her dramatic use of one-point perspective feels modern, attracting the viewer into her picture plane. Although Klein’s paintings seem to transcend time, they undoubtedly question the role of nature in today’s  increasingly artificial and technology-dependent world.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Particulates at Dia:Chelsea

Nothing disrupts the weighted double doors, white walls and polished concrete floors of a blue chip Chelsea gallery quite like a single industrial door leading into a dark, brick, basketball-court-sized box. To enter Rita McBride’s Particulates at Dia:Chelsea one must go through the basic metal door posted with a caution for exposure to lasers and radiation. At first this seems like a joke, something reminiscent of Maurizio Cattelan or Duke Riley. But, on the other side of the door you're transported into an unfinished basement shelter. Your eyes adjust to the darkness and green lasers beaming from across the space come into focus. 16 beams span the length of Dia:Chelsea forming a hyperbola around a single horizontal axis. A slow consistent stream of mist disperses over the beams, intensifying the green wherever the laser light goes through water. The air is humid, the floor shines with condensation, and a slight buzzing rings in your ears. An uneven zigzag fence designed by McBride blocks visitors from getting too close to the lasers for one can't help walking the fence, staring into the beams of green light and pondering how Particulates captivates the senses. 

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery: Carla Kevin

Carla Kevin's exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in a huge and bright gallery helped to make large paintings look larger. Her works create a silent and calm mood. There are not any moving objects in her works, so when appreciating artworks, it is able to feel that environments around us have stopped or flows very slowly. However, at the same time, falling water image creates little noise at silence drawings. Her paintings make people think that they are walking into greenhouses deeper and deeper and looking for another spaces or rooms.

Moreover, the wide gaps between paintings lead people to appreciate the show slowly like her painting. These paintings are filled with leaves and pipes which we can see in greenhouses. The works do not look realistic, but they seem like old, vintage photographs because of the colors and lines. The colors she used to set the warm and comfortable tone.

Many of the works have white and bright backgrounds. However, some paintings are darker with brown backgrounds. The artworks that have dark colors make for gloomy, stuffy and even scary moods. One work that I was significantly moved by is half white and half red. The upper part contains comfortable and calm tones, while the bottom part is painted red. This contrast creates two different worlds. The red part looks like everything is destroyed, feels cold and hopeless. It is not as detailed as the upper part. Her paintings include both warm and cold, hope and despair, and the arrangement of paintings was enough and perfect to show the contrasts of tone and mood. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Brian Alfred: “Future Shock” at Miles McEnery Gallery

It seems everyday one encounters news of a fresh threat to humankind, a new possible reason for the destruction of our species. Brian Alfred tries to capture this feeling of the world spiraling towards disaster. He succeeds in a handful of paintings, but only truly achieves his goal in the video piece on display. The video included the digitally produced version of most of the work in the exhibition, but it was the inclusion of dark synth music, camera movement, and a few strong pieces that were nowhere to be found in the gallery, that made it much more powerful. 

Communication of the idea that humankind is nonchalantly barreling toward ruin is an important part of this show, yet there were a number of pieces that detracted from that concept. The first piece you see upon entering the space, the painting cryptically titled, Enclaves of the Future, has an important job of setting the tone of the show. However, the painting fails at this task by simply depicting a night sky with no inkling of a planet wracked with environmental disaster and political strife. Nevertheless, Alfred produces some provocative and visually pleasing work that serves as an innocent envelope containing a message that accents humanity’s casual flirtation with destruction and chaos. 
(This is a promo video provided by the gallery that is similar to the video in the exhibition)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Whitney Museum of Art: An Incomplete History of Protest: 1940-2017

 Amid the sea of signs during last month’s Women’s March, one poster epitomized the event: “Too many demands to fit on one poster”. This more or less summarizes the ambitious selection of activist art in Whitney Museum’s 6th floor exhibition. The show reflected on finite forms of protest over the past eight decades, organized into eight themes ranging from protests against the Vietnam War to self-reflective appeals within the museum walls. Rooms filled with poignant war posters are juxtaposed with works such as Ad Reinhardt’s non-objective, relation-less black field painting to show that protest can happen in many forms.        

     The exhibition's inclusiveness is the outcome of a protest titled “Strike, Boycott, Advocate: The Whitney Archives”. Featuring objection letters from renowned artists against the Whitney, they disputed the museum’s bigotry and demand a more inclusive and accessible representation of artistic styles. It is a relief to read these letters and then witness how the Whitney was willing to admit its imperfections and has made efforts toward change. In recognizing their past faults, it is admirable to see protested institutions and authorities take the humility to acknowledge their protestors. Artists as protestors continues explore their ongoing relations with politic. 

Cowabunga Michelangelo

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art staff curator Carmen C. Bambach put together an exhibit entitled Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer. On display are a collection of over one hundred thirty drawings in addition to several sculptures, paintings, and an impressive reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. A key takeaway from the exhibit included how it highlighted Michelangelo’s pursuit of perfection. This was showcased not just through completed sculptures and paintings but also though his numerous preparatory sketches each of which were completed masterfully. His pursuit of perfection can also be found in the figures themselves, as one would be hard pressed to find a rendering of a body that was not physically magnificent. Also magnificent was Michelangelo’s ability to express emotion through the contorted body.

In presenting the sheer volume of work, the show encompasses Michelangelo’s artistic career with dramatic spotlighting that treats each work – be it a sketch or a sculpture - as a masterpiece worthy of careful examination. The exhibition has done Michelangelo’s legacy a great service. The only frustration with the exhibit was with the crowd this celebrated artist attracted. Much shuffling is required to get close enough for a good look at divinity.